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Komets at Elmira
Face-off: 7:05 p.m. Friday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Kaleigh Schrock recently took part in his 75th fight during his five-year career with the Komets. That's a lot of brawling in today's pro hockey game, especially for someone who is only 5-foot-11, 175 pounds.
The News-Sentinel sat down with Schrock last week to talk about the intricacies of fighting and some of his experiences.
NS: How do you view fighting, and what's your philosophy on it?
KS: My philosophy is that it's something I can do to help get the bench or the crowd involved in the game. When anyone watches a fight ... if you are in a room with 100 people and two guys fight, everyone wants to watch it. I think it's in our nature. It gets people excited, and that does a lot more than saying something in a room or trying to motivate in other ways. That's why I do it.
I would guess maybe 2 percent of my fights are because I'm emotionally ticked off at a guy. It can create space for other guys out there. If I was playing against Steve Fletcher, and I knew if I hit his skill guys that he was coming after me, it would make me think twice about doing something, about being a rat. It can put guys to sleep, too, on the other team if their job is to be a rat or be physical. They are going to think twice if they know someone is going to police them.
NS: But you aren't fighting them because most of the time they won't fight.
KS: They would know that I'd come after them. If a guy on the other team hammers (Brandon) Marino in the corner, you don't think that he's thinking in the back of his mind, "If I do that I might have to deal with Schrocky"?
NS: But if he decides he's not going to fight you, what can you do?
KS: He's still going to have to answer the bell in some ways. There are guys in the league who get a reputation for being kind of a rat. There are guys who will run their mouth all day but they aren't going to fight you.
For the most part, if I run somebody, a skill player on the other team, I'm expecting somebody to come after me. Just like (Toledo's Emerson) Clark, he didn't have to fight me the other night, but he dropped his gloves at Marino and tried to throw a few punches at him and knocked (Scott) Fleming to the ground. At least he answered the bell. I have respect for guys like that. It's more of an unwritten rule but hockey players get it. You don't want to be known as a guy who is kind of classless like that who won't back it up.
NS: The Clark fight, you went over and told him you were going. How did it start?
KS: It happened at the end of the first period, he kind of cross-checked Fleming from behind, so Marino came in and grabbed him. Then he dropped his gloves and tried to throw some punches at Marino, I think. We had a shift after a TV timeout and Clark was out there. (Komets coach Gary Graham) Grammer was sending out some guys, and I said, "If Clark is out there I want to see if I can get him to go.'' I think he (Clark) knew once he saw me out there that's what I was wanting to do. We talked about it. At first the ref, came in and said, "If you guys are going to do it, do it now.'' Clark said, "We've only got nine forwards and I'll fight you in the third period.'' I said, "You're still only going to have nine forwards in the third period.'' (Laughs)
He was like, "OK, fine.'' That's that. Now I have this black eye. (Laughs) He threw a right and I ducked it and he threw a left and caught me with it, but it was toward the end of the fight.
NS: Did you feel it right away?
KS: I felt it, but I didn't know that it cut me. I knew that he got me in the eye. Usually, I've been in so many fights, normally if I get stung I can really feel it. I didn't feel that he stung me, but I definitely knew he got a good one in and caught me good.
When you first start fighting (in your career) and get out of a fight and go sit down in the penalty box, there are a million things going through your head and you can't remember anything. Now I've been in so many I can really sit down and think about what did I do wrong, and I think that really helps me as a fighter. I can limit my adrenalin. It gets going a little bit, and of course if I get hit it ticks me off, but at the same time I can be more technical and think about what happened instead of just going to the box as a 20-year-old like I did in juniors and just being so pumped that I don't remember anything from the fight.
NS: When do things start to hurt?
KS: When you put your helmet back on. The way I fight, I get hit a lot on the top of my head because I like to turn and try to evade punches. It always feels like I have three golf balls on the top of my head when I put my helmet back on.
NS: Who's the biggest guy you ever fought?
KS: Probably Jason Goulet (6-foot-5, 245 pounds). I think that's the one fight where I had enough confidence -- and maybe I was just stupid -- but I thought I was tough enough to fight anybody after I did well against him.
A funny story, that year I did well against him, and guys like Brad MacMillan and Kevin Bertram would square off against him and he would just kill them. I thought, I better not square off with him, because those guys were way tougher than I'll ever be. I remember we were playing Quad City at home. Al Sims called out MacMillan, (Mitch) Woods and I, saying, "You guys haven't done anything out there all night. You're like ghosts out there.'' I told MacMillan I'm going out there and fighting Goulet. I just wanted to keep my job as a rookie. He said, no you're not, and I said, yeah, I am.
I go to the net, and Goulet gives me a little jab (below the belt), so I throw my stuff down and I say, "Let's go!'' It was kind of a square-off situation. I threw a couple of punches and then he kind of said, "Go, Go Gadget arm,'' and strung me out and started pounding on me. Luckily, he was hitting my shoulder. It felt like he was going to punch my shoulder out, that's how hard this guy was throwing them. I could just hear MacMillan, and I wasn't sure if it was MacMillan or Kathy Schrock (his mother), "Kaleigh, let go and go down!'' (Laughs.) MacMillan was really concerned about me which was funny.
Then one year in Wichita, Goulet and (Robin) Richards tried to jump me. That's when the whole melee started in Wichita when (Nick) Boucher stopped that penalty shot and then gives them an (obscene gesture) to their bench. There was a faceoff in their end with probably about seven seconds left. Simmer is sending (Colin) Chaulk's line out there. Chaulker is like, "I'm not going out there.'' They had all their tough guys out there. I go out there, and I'm the only guy who lines up next to Goulet and Richards. Danko (Mironovic) is out there, (Dan) Lapointe, (Dustin) Molle, and they are nowhere to be found. Goulet and Richards are just licking their chops.
One of the linesmen comes in, and I say, "I swear to God, if one of these guys touches me, I'm swinging my stick like it's a golf club.'' Before I can do anything, the linesmen comes in and grabs me and Goulet. Richards throws a punch from behind me and hits me in the tooth so hard I swallowed it. He just starts punching me on the ground, and finally the linesmen jump in and separate us. I want to fight him mano a mano, and I drag the linesman all the way across the ice, but in the meantime there's just a brawl going on. Goulet grabbed Dustin Molle and was beating the crap out of him. Everybody on our team is just getting their butts kicked.
I had no tooth, my nose is leaking and I come back to the bench and yell, "Attaboy Chaulker, attaboy!'' Chaulker just loved it and he was dying laughing.
NS: How often do you talk to him?
KS: We text every once in a while. We just talked last week after ( the Clark fight). When he got knocked out by (Bloomington's Ryan) Palmer (in 2012), I would always call him "Chaulker the candle, one blow and he's out.'' (Laughs and laughs). That's just how ruthlessly we tease each other. We always go for blood. (Laughs). I always joke around and say, ``I'm made of iron, you can't break it,'' and Chaulker would always say, ``But you can sure bend it.'' (Laughs.)
NS: Was that the hardest punch you've ever taken?
KS: The hardest punch I ever took was last year, (Tyler) Murovich of Gwinnett. We played in Gwinnett last year and Simmer told me to go out there and start something with like three seconds left. I was playing center, so I whacked him and threw a punche. He slew-footed me, and as he was falling down on top of me he threw one that connected with my eye and nose and it broke my nose. That was the hardest I've ever been hit.
After that, in the locker room, I just wanted to go to sleep. That's how bad it hurt. I've never been punched in a fight where I just had to stop fighting, but when he hit me like that, it was everything I could do to just keep fighting and try to get away. He connected with a good one. His momentum was coming down on top of me, and my head hit the ice, too.
NS: What's the hardest you've ever hit somebody?
KS: Probably the best punch I ever threw was in juniors. It was for the Toledo IceDiggers, and it was the first game my aunt ever went to, so she didn't know anything about hockey. It was my second fight of the game and I ended up being kicked out. My signature move in juniors, and I still do it sometimes, on the very first punch I would duck, and a guy threw a right and I ducked it, and as he was leaning back up, I clocked him right in the schnoz and knocked him right out. I knocked him down and knocked out his teeth.
The best part of it was I was actually ticked off at the guy. Back then, believe it or not, I was on the power play. I had already fought the guy once and beat him up pretty good. They sent him back after me when we were on the power play, and I kept looking back at my coach, and he's like, ``No, no, no.'' Finally, the guy was all over me, chasing me for about 30 seconds, and I look back at the coach and he finally gives me a thumbs up. He'd had enough, too. I threw my stuff down and he threw a bomb and missed, and I just blasted him. That was probably the best feeling. The guy was chasing me around and I just knocked him out.
NS: Who have you fought the most?
KS: Mark Cody from Evansville. I've probably fought him five or six times.
NS: What's your record against him, or do you even think about wins and losses?
KS: I think at the beginning of my career I did, but against Cody, I think I'm 4-0-2. (Laughs).
NS: So now you don't even think about wins and losses?
KS: Moreso now I just try not to get my bell rung. I've always been kind of an open fighter. I haven't been very technical. My offense has always been my best defense. In juniors it was a lot easier because I would fight anybody, but everybody fights in juniors because they want to make points. I would get up to 10, 15 fights a year with guys who didn't fight.
Now it's extremely tough because anyone that's willing to drop the gloves is going to be extremely tough. I better than to be an idiot about it. I try to duck punches all the time, but sometimes you have to be smart and try to keep your head up to see where they are throwing. It's always been one of my bad habits, but it has saved me a lot being able to duck and evade punches. I don't even know where I learned it.
NS: Who is somebody you have a lot of respect for who fights?
KS: The one guy obviously is Brad MacMillan. It's hard for me to respect anybody more than I do Brad MacMillan in the aspect of fighting. He was smaller than most of the guys he fought. Yes, he was jacked and was very strong, but he never had a height advantage.
People don't understand how hard it is to win fights when the other guy is taller than you and has a longer reach. Brad fought guys who were big, tough, and he did exceptionally well, and he won most of his fights, and he wouldn't back down from anybody, but he also fought at the right times.
I also remember him as a Komet on Halloween when I fought John DiPace and the next shift they sent all their goons out at Chaulker and (Konstantin Shafranov) Shaffy, and Brad didn't care. He come out of the box and threw the linesmen out of the way to prove a point and to protect Shaffy. I'll never forget that. That's what a great teammate does.
Coming Wednesday: Part 2 of interview